FOLLOW YOUR HEART

My close writer friends and those who may have read previous posts on this blog will know the sort of dilemmas I have been going through over the last few years with my YA novel, Street Racer.

After hearing Ellen Hopkins talk at the  SCBWI NSW conference in 2008 I decided I wanted to write a verse novel. And not too many months later, Street Racer arrived in my head. I won’t go into detail but it’s about a guy who is street racing for the first time and one split second mistake changes his life forever.

It’s a fast paced story with lots of internal reflection by the main characters as they deal with the consequences of the accident.

It was one of those books that just flowed right from the start. I knew who my characters were and I knew their story.

After a number of drafts I submitted it to my publisher who decided not to publish it for a number of reasons – one being that it was a verse novel.

I love the story so much that I decided to try and rewrite it in prose. Five drafts and a number of years later and it still didn’t seem right.

When I attended the SCBWI LA conference recently I decided to attend Ellen Hopkins‘ intensive workshop on Writing Novels in Verse (which by the way was fantastic). Apart from loving her books, I was drawn to the fact that the intensive was designed to  help you decide if your novel should be written in verse, and how best to rise to that challenge.”

It seemed as if this intensive was designed just for me – and I think it was:)

I have come back from LA totally inspired. In fact every spare moment has been spent reworking my novel.

Thanks to Ellen’s encouragement and support and my own soul searching, I have come to the conclusion that I just have to follow my heart and if the character came to me telling his story in verse then I have to be guided by that.

I have to tell this story in my own way, from my heart, in verse – whether it’s a format that publishers find appealing or not.

I’d love to hear your stories about writing the story that’s true to you.

Happy writing:)

Dee

P.S. If you want to know more about Street Racer, the lovely and creative Svetlana from Moondog Design has made me an amazing book trailer featuring music by my talented friend, Michael Langley .  I’d love to know what you think so feel free to leave your comments here or on Youtube.

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TUESDAY WRITING TIPS – WRESTLING WITH FORMAT

I have to confess to being pretty well stumped recently on the edits for my YA novel Street Racer. I was happy with the plot and the last half of the story, but the first part just didn’t seem to be working.

I’ve blogged about this before, but I’ve realised that what’s not working for me is my main character’s voice.

So over the last few weeks/months I have been exploring new possibilities for my MC. I had a thing for Master Chef for a while and thought that he might be  a cook, but I soon realised that WASN’T Ric. He’s not a chef, he’s a muso, a kind of rugged creative boy who’s not afraid to take risks. Ric ‘told’ me that he has his own band and that music means a lot to him.

So, it was time for a rethink. Time to make some music. If Ric was going to be in a band, it had to have a name – and of course he’d have a favourite band and that would need a name too.

So having come up with two band names that my teen and pre-teen son approved of, it was time to make some music. Gulp! It was time for me to take the plunge and write some songs – after all, every band makes its own music.

And bands write songs, don’t they? So that was my next task. That’s where the exploring new mediums comes in. To make my book, my mc and his band authentic, I needed to write songs.

I don’t have any expertise or experience in this field – all I have is my ‘creative’ brain, a willingness to try new things, a love of singing, a vision for my story, and some idea of how poems are written – and my philosophy that when it comes to writing, I’ll ‘give anything a go’.

After some angst and stress I emerged with five songs and on the whole I’m happy with how they’ve turned out.

Here’s a sample of one of Ric’s songs:

Engine oil

hot rod metal

pounding hearts

stamping feet

band plays

dog barks

rhythm and beat

rhythm and beat

Ric’s songs might not win any ARIAs, but this is what they do:

  1. Reflect contemporary culture and issues
  2. Fit with my main character’s voice and character
  3. Have rhythm and beat
  4. Have relevance to the story
  5. Add another dimension to my main character and his story

So I’m guess what I’m saying is this. When you’re writing a story, don’t be afraid to try something new, to explore new mediums to venture into a new realm that’s going to add another layer, another experience to your writing.

You never know till you try something.

Step outside the square and see where your creativity takes you. Apart from being a lot of fun it can really enhance your story.

Happy writing:-)

Dee

POSTSCRIPT: Street Racer started life as a verse novel and although I loved the verse, I have come to realise that it doesn’t work for this topic or this readership.

So, with heavy heart, I have discarded the last of the verse and rewritten it as journal entries.

As my wise 14 year-old son says, “Don’t worry Mum, you can always write a verse novel about something else.”


HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST FORMAT FOR YOUR BOOK – TUESDAY WRITING TIP

In last week’s Tuesday Writing Tip I talked about how I had changed my young adult novel from verse to prose. This attracted a lot of comment from blog readers in defence of the verse novel so I thought I’d devote this post to choosing the right format for your writing.

I want to start by saying I love verse novels. I love the works of Ellen Hopkins, Sally Murphy, Sherryl Clark, Steven Herrick, Margaret Wild and so many other great writers.

But for me, the decision to change format was not just about the fact that my publisher didn’t want to publish my book as a verse novel. The MAIN thing that swayed me was the opinions of teen boys who were the intended readers of my book.

Street Racer is about a boy who loses control of his car when street racing and hits a girl, seriously injuring her and changing both their lives forever.

Street Racer is a book that I WANT teen boys to read. But I spoke to a number of them and the responses were unanimous. They found the subject matter interesting but they said they would not read a verse novel. I was disappointed with this response – but in Australia at least, that’s the reality.

So this is where I came to my first conclusion. I believe that whatever format you decide on, it must suit your readership. There’s no point in writing a great book for teen boys that they won’t read.

Format is important and it’s something I’m not afraid to play with. Letters to Leonardo was a combination of letters and narrative. In this case, the letters written to Leonardo da Vinci were a great device for allowing readers to become more intimate with the main character.

In a series I’m working on called The Chat Room, the format is a mixture of narrative, blog posts, chat room excerpts and diary entries. I have chosen these formats because they are relevant to the subject matter , and they are formats that my intended readers will be familiar with.

I’m also currently working on a non-fiction project for teens that I’m starting to think might suit the graphic format. So format is something I love to work with, but I think you need to ask yourself these questions before deciding which one to choose:

  1. What is the subject matter of the work?
  2. Who are the intended readers for the work?
  3. Will the intended readers be familiar with/be able to relate to the format?
  4. Can you use a combination of formats so the reader has time to adapt to a format they wouldn’t normally choose?

It has been hard for me to let go of the verse novel format for Street Racer and the truth is that I’m not quite there yet – in fact I would really like to retain at least one of the character’s POVs in verse.

Not everyone will think I’ve done the right thing – but ultimately, I think Street Racer will be an important book for teen boys to read so I’m prepared to make compromises to ensure that happens.

When it comes to format, the decision has to be a considered choice by the writer. Format needs to be chosen not on a whim, but for its relevance to the topic and the readership.

Good luck with your format dilemmas.

Happy writing.

Dee:-)

WRITING – STARTING WITH THE FINISH

Welcome to 2010 everyone, and I hope it’s a safe, happy and succesful year for you.

Logic dictates that I should be starting the new year with a post about beginning a story – but seeing as logic has never been my strong point, I’m starting 2010 with a post about how to handle the end.

Probably selfish I know, but relevant to me at this point in my novel’s ‘creation life’. That’s because I am currently in the throes, wrestling with, doing grapple tackles on my new YA novel, Street Racer – and it’s the ending that needs the most work.

See, my problem is, that I’m a little bit like a Racer in the way I write. When I see the end in sight, I put my foot on the accelerator and go for it – don’t stop till I reach the end. In fact, sometimes, I’m in such a hurry that I make wrong turns, forget to check out the scenery – and have even been known to lose a character along the way.

This year, being a new year, I’m trying a new approach to story endings and so far it seems to be working.

What I’ve realised is that it’s important to take your ending away from the rest of the story and treat it as if it were the start. In fact, this is something you can do with any parts of your story that you feel aren’t working as well as they should be.

Here’s what I mean, when it comes to endings. Take the last fifty pages of your story and rewrite them with the same diligence, care and love you have devoted to the start. If you are anything like me – you will have written, reworked, agonised over and polished that beginning until it shines – that’s after all what all the writing experts tell you to do; that this is the part that will impress the publisher or agent.

But what generally happens with my endings is…..well, I leave them till last. That makes them a bit like the last Christmas present to unwrap, the last week of the school year, the last day of the holidays – you just don’t face them with the same enthusiasm. I’ve realised it’s all about changing your thinking.

If you take the end away, detach it from your story…..and then rewrite it; you won’t run out of steam. Treat it as a new piece. Break it down chapter by chapter, page by page, word by word – until every single part of it is the best it can be. With any luck you’ll find that by doing this, you’ll give your story ending the same vibrance, clarity and spark as the beginning.

Hope this works for you. Would love to know if you can relate to this way of writing, or you may have a completely different solution to offer.

Feel free to leave your comments, and share with other writers the way that you work.

Dee:-)